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George Takei in the Driver's Seat Again

December 05, 1991|JOAN FANTAZIA | Joan Fantazia is a copy editor on the features desk at The Times Orange County Edition

George Takei admits the timing is "rather ironic."

On Saturday, Dec. 7--the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor--Takei, a Japanese-American who as a child was imprisoned in an internment camp, will be waving to the crowds as a grand marshal of The Times Orange County Holiday Parade.

The Pearl Harbor observance was important last year and will be next year, Takei said, but because this is the 50th anniversary, he added, there's intense focus on it. He says he's hoping that the anniversary is being dealt with in the context of today's world events, and that the nation will learn some of the lessons of history.

But in fact, it's neither history nor politics that will bring him to Orange County. It's his new film, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," which opens Friday, the day before the parade. In this outing, Takei says, his character, Capt. Sulu--who started out as a helmsman in the TV series--is "a mover and shaper" of the plot, though it's still pretty much Capt. Kirk's show.

In his last major film role, "Prisoners of the Sun," Takei, 52, also played an officer--a World War II Japanese prison camp commandant accused of war crimes. And though one is set in the past and one in the future, "both films deal," he said, "with the difficulties of making peace."

Even in the 1960s, "Star Trek" dealt with broader issues than may have met the eye. The show "was a metaphor for our time," Takei said, noting that "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry used science fiction to make statements about the Vietnam War and civil rights.

Takei's stops between "Star Trek" voyages have hardly been like shore leave. Along with film projects, he has done much stage work. He's getting ready to visit Asia soon to work on a project for the BBC.

He also is on the boards of the Los Angeles Theater Center and the Japanese American National Museum. And he was active in the struggle for reparations for interned Japanese Americans.

It was his father, Takei recalls, who guided him into activism. "He taught us that we live in a participatory democracy," and that informed involvement is the only way to avoid being undone by the manipulators.

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